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Fearless in Philly

Who's afraid of the new economy? Not Valeria Maltoni. She's a marketing specialist for Destiny WebSolutions Inc., an e-business consultancy based in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. So far, she says, the slowdown in the Internet sector has not affected Destiny, which works with top-tier financial institutions like Citigroup and Northern Trust Corp. Maltoni, 36, is also coordinator of the Philadelphia CoF cell, a group that shows no signs of cutting back its efforts to keep members on the cutting edge of business change. The group's ongoing activities include peer-to-peer mentoring and events that highlight best practices at local companies. And at RealTime Philadelphia, an FC gathering held last month, cell members organized a pre-event party and staffed a CoF information booth. Fast Company talked to Maltoni about the steady success of her Net company, about the importance of teamwork skills, and about the value of asking people for help.

What are you working on? We're helping clients in the asset-management, insurance, and private-banking fields to confront online business challenges. We haven't really seen a lot of the problems that many other Web businesses have been going through. For one thing, the financial-services industry is relatively stable; for another, many companies in the industry are still trying to catch up to early Web innovators. At Destiny, our vision has always been long-term. And we didn't follow the approach that many Internet startups adopted: IPO first, business plan later.

Favorite FC story: My favorite FC section is Unit of One. I particularly enjoyed the recent piece on teamwork ('What Makes Teams Work?' November 2000). I grew up in Italy, and I had my first experience with teamwork when I was in middle school there. Every project that we did was presented to the class as a team effort. Similarly, at Destiny, the whole company operates as a team. That Unit of One piece brought into focus several team-related issues that we've been dealing with recently: respect, interaction, leadership, and team size.

Leadership principle: It's okay to ask for help. In any situation, whenever I think that I have more to give than I have to get, I'm wrong. I can always learn from others. Sometimes leaders have trouble asking for help. But we all need to open ourselves up to other people's judgment. At Destiny, it's also assumed that team leaders will show initiative. If you make a suggestion for a new project, then you lead that project -- because you believe in it.

Coordinates: Valeria Maltoni, vsilviam@yahoo.com